Haemorrhoids, or piles, are a common problem for people throughout the world. They occur when veins in the anus and rectum swell, causing discomfort, itchiness and sometimes discharge of fluids, including blood.
Though haemorrhoids typically clear up on their own in a relatively-short time and don’t always necessitate a visit to the doctor, they’re still a painful nuisance for those who suffer from them.
Here are a few simple ways to treat haemorrhoids at home:
1. Try a Sitz bath
Sitting in warm water for around 15 minutes a few times each day is generally agreed to be one of the best home treatments for haemorrhoids. The warm water can help soothe irritation around the anus and rectum, especially if Epsom salts are added.
Doctors recommend using a Sitz bath for this process, and advise haemorrhoid sufferers to try it after every bowel movement. Unscented soap should be used (without scrubbing). Sitz baths can be bought at most local pharmacies or online and are a convenient way to soak the affected area without the need for a full-body bath.
After soaking is complete, the area should be patted dry rather than rubbed in order to avoid further irritation. A hair-dryer can also be used.
2. Cold compresses the region
A second particularly-effective treatment involves the use of an ice pack or cold compress to help reduce haemorrhoid swelling. Wrap the ice pack or cold compress in a paper towel or cloth first – holding an uncovered pack to the skin can be dangerous. Try this several times a day for 15 minutes at a time to gain some relief from haemorrhoids.
3. Wear the right clothing
Keep your anal region dry and clean by wearing loose, breathable cotton clothing rather than tight-fitting clothes made from materials like polyester. Loose cotton underwear should also be worn. Keeping the anal region aired-out helps avoid the build up of moisture, which only worsens haemorrhoid symptoms. Also avoid using detergents with perfume in them, or fabric softeners, until the haemorrhoids are gone.
4. Try psyllium husk
Improving your fibre intake is key to avoiding constipation and more haemorrhoids.
A supplement like psyllium husk helps increase fibre intake while also softening your stool, making bowel movements easier. Always drink plenty of water when using supplements, and don’t overdo it.
5. Use witch hazel
Witch hazel is an anti-inflammatory that can reduce swelling. It can be bought as a liquid and applied to haemorrhoids directly, but it’s also present in various anti-itch products (wipes and soaps).
6. Try ointments or medication
If natural products aren’t working, you can purchase various creams and ointments from pharmacies which provide relief from pain and itchiness straight away, and also combat swelling. Painkillers can also help get you through the worst periods of haemorrhoid suffering.
If the product you’re using contains hydrocortisone, however, stop using it after a week at most.
7. Give aloe vera a try
Aloe vera is another product while naturally tackles haemorrhoids. Like witch hazel, it’s anti-inflammatory and helps reduce swelling and irritation. It can be purchased as a gel and occurs in a variety of products, but only pure aloe vera should be used on haemorrhoids as many other products also contain perfumes, which can cause irritation.
8. Stool softeners
Stool softeners are useful for reducing constipation. They work to soften stool and make it easier to pass in a bowel movement. Softeners come in liquid, powder and capsule form, and can be taken several times each day.
9. Use tea tree oil (in moderation)
Like witch hazel and aloe vera, tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce swelling and itchiness around the anal and rectal areas. Studies have suggested that tea tree oil certainly helps combat haemorrhoid symptoms, but there isn’t currently a lot of evidence to support its usage, and doctors are unlikely to prescribe it.
10. Watch what you eat and drink
Bump up the fiber. It softens your stools and makes them move through your body more easily. You’ll find it in beans, whole-grain breads and cereals, and fresh fruits and veggies. You may also want to try a supplement if you can’t get enough from foods. Add fiber slowly to help avoid gas and bloating.
Drink lots of fluids. Stay well hydrated to keep stools soft so they’re easier to pass. Water is the best choice. Drink plenty throughout the day. Prune juice is a natural laxative and can help you go.
11. Stay active
Stay as active as possible when you have haemorrhoids. Go for a walk, or do some simply housework that involves being on your feet. Sitting for long periods only worsens the symptoms of haemorrhoids, and if you are sitting, try using a cushion or pillow to ease the swelling.
12. Maintain good habits in the bathroom
Finally, taking time to consider the way in which you use the bathroom (and the time you spend there) can ultimately be the most straightforward way to treat haemorrhoids at home, as well as preventing them in future.
For a start, don’t spend too long on the toilet. Try to incorporate toilet time into your daily routine, and if nothing happens after a short time, don’t try forcing it.
On the flip side, don’t hold it in, either. If you need to go, just go – waiting for a more convenient time can just put added strain on the affected region. And when you’re done, be gentle when wiping. If the toilet paper you’re using causes more irritation, try dampening it or using wipes.
Also ensure that you breathe regularly when passing stool. Many people hold their breath when pushing, which only leads to more pain and possible bleeding. Breathe as normally as possible when making a bowel movement. You can also try sitting in more of a squat position when on the toilet to help your bowels move more freely – prop your feet up higher with something and keep your knees raised.
Haemorrhoids, which are often known as piles, are a common but frustrating ailment. They often flare up in older people or during pregnancy, though anyone can get them at any time, and sometimes necessitate a visit to the doctor. If you’ve never had them before, you may be alarmed by the symptoms that accompany their appearance in your body. However, haemorrhoids are usually no cause for worry and can clear up on their own.
What are haemorrhoids?
Haemorrhoids are swellings that occur when blood vessels expand. They appear inside or around the bottom, in the rectum and the anus; they can manifest both externally and internally, and are graded based on whether or not they extend out of the anal canal, and by how far. They are classified as first, second, third, fourth, or external haemorrhoids (or piles), and normally increase in painfulness the further they extend.
Symptoms of haemorrhoids include itchiness, aches and pains, anal swelling, painful passing of faeces, mucus discharge, a lump protruding from the anus, and bleeding after passing stool.
Suffering from haemorrhoids becomes more likely as you get older. Being constipated or spending a lot of time straining on the toilet also increases your chances of getting them. Haemorrhoids can also occur during and after pregnancy, though they usually clear up after the baby arrives.
In this article, we’ll explore whether or not haemorrhoids are caused by pregnancy.
What usually causes haemorrhoids?
Haemorrhoids normally flare up when veins in the anal canal swell and become inflamed. This is most often caused by excessive strain when using the toilet (if you have ongoing diarrhoea or are constipated), which commonly results from a lack of fibre in the diet, though they can also occur as a result of attempts to lift very heavy items or because of a cough that won’t go away.
Haemorrhoids are also often caused by being overweight, having a history of them in the family, or by sitting down for extended time periods. However, pregnancy can also lead to an appearance of haemorrhoids due to a variety of factors.
Can pregnancy cause haemorrhoids?
Haemorrhoids are most common in pregnancy in the third trimester. During this time, the uterus (enlarged by the pregnancy) puts added pressure on veins, causing them to inflame. They are an itchy, inconvenient and often painful irritation for women during a time when their bodies are undergoing significant change. However, they are usually not a threat to the health of the baby, and don’t last long.
As your unborn baby grows, your uterus gets bigger and begins to press against your pelvis. This growth puts a lot of pressure on the veins near your anus and rectum, and these veins may become swollen and painful as a result.
During pregnancy, the body’s production of the hormone progesterone increases substantially, which can relax vein walls and make them more likely to swell – this can lead to the appearance of haemorrhoids in the anal canal. In addition, the overall volume of blood in the body also increases, which forces veins to enlarge in order to compensate.
During pregnancy, haemorrhoids are most often caused by bowel strain, additional pregnancy weight, extended periods sitting down, and constipation.
Constipation and haemorrhoids in pregnancy
A large percentage of women can experience constipation during the course of their pregnancy. This is usually attributed to the uterus (which has grown significantly in size) pressing against the bowels, placing undue pressure on the inferior vena cava, the vein which drains the other veins of the large intestine. Hormones associated with pregnancy also slow down the movement of food through the intestines and cause women to have slower bowel movements that are much more strained and less frequent than usual, leading to constipation. Iron supplements required during pregnancy can also contribute to it.
To ease constipation during pregnancy (and in doing so, lessen the chance of developing haemorrhoids), it’s a good idea to drink a good amount of fluid, particularly water, and consume plenty of fibre in your diet; fruits, vegetables and whole grains are a must – pears, berries, avocados, artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lentils, beans, peas, seeds and nuts are great sources of fibre. Increased exercise and straining less when on the toilet are also helpful methods of easing constipation.
How to prevent haemorrhoids during pregnancy
You can reduce your chance of developing haemorrhoids during pregnancy through a handful of simple but effective actions.
First, avoid standing or sitting in one spot for too long. Take every opportunity to get up and walk around for a bit, especially if your job involves sitting for extended periods of time. Try lying on your side on the sofa when watching TV or when reading in bed to reduce pressure on veins in your rectum. And when you feel the need to use the toilet, go straight away as holding it in make constipation more likely.
Secondly, do daily exercises aimed at strengthening your pelvic floor muscles – this can help improve your rectal circulation, assisting in the avoidance of constipation. These exercises can be performed at home, at work, or anywhere you find yourself.
Finally, you can ask your doctor for a stool softener to help avoid constipation. Laxatives should be steered well clear of as they can stimulate uterine contractions and cause dehydration.
How to treat haemorrhoids during pregnancy
Though they will usually go away of their own accord, there are several simple ways to treat haemorrhoids at home, at least to reduce itchiness and discomfort.
If the area is swollen, try applying an ice pack several times a day to bring it down and make you less uncomfortable. You can also soak your rectal region in warm water throughout the day using a basin or a shallow bath.
It’s also crucial to keep your anus clean and dry during the day. Take care to clean the area immediately after every bowel movement. Baby wipes or moist paper towels are a better alternative in this instance to toilet paper, which can be rough.
You should always pat rather than wipe your rectal region after a bowel movement to avoid irritation; if the area does become itchy, use baking soda or products made with hazel to ease the sensation. Always speak to your doctor before applying anything, though.